If you live in Alabama and you have an aging parent or other relative, you likely are already aware of the many ways people attempt to exploit or abuse seniors every day. One of the more common scenarios is when a caregiver or home health worker gets very close to the senior and quickly begins assuming roles that are normally reserved for family. For instance, after a few months of providing in-home care, an elderly person may decide to change powers of attorney or other estate planning documents to include this new trusted friend. While this may be nothing more than a kind gesture, in most cases there is something more insidious going on.
At Five Points Law Group, our attorneys have decades of experience protecting seniors and their families from exploitation and abuse. If you suspect a caregiver is trying to gain access to your loved one’s money or other assets, call us right away.
Basic Legal Protections
First, we begin with the assumption that a senior has appropriate planning documents in place, namely a Last Will and Testament and durable powers of attorney for health and finances. If these are not already in place, a senior is at risk. Not having these legal protections means that if the senior becomes cognitively impaired (i.e. stroke, dementia, etc.), a court process known as guardianship or conservatorship would be necessary just to handle the person’s affairs.
If the elderly individual is still mentally capable of executing these documents, he or she should schedule an appointment to meet with an experienced attorney right away. If not, there is still hope.
Changes to Estate Plans and Powers of Attorney
Under Alabama Law (Section 26-1A-301 of the Alabama Code), a statutory power of attorney form can be crafted to allow a loved one to make decisions regarding things like:
- Real estate transfers
- Tax documents
- Bank accounts
- Insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Just about any other financial asset
While this can be a powerful instrument to help family members manage the finances of an aging senior who may be losing the mental ability to do so on his or her own, it can also be a dangerous weapon for unscrupulous caregivers looking to steal from a senior.
Restrictions on Healthcare Providers Being Named as Agents Under Powers of Attorney
If your aging parent or other loved one is considering granting these types of powers to a stranger or healthcare provider, you should be aware that public policy generally prohibits healthcare providers from being named as agents under powers of attorney. The reason stems from the obvious potential for a conflict of interest. Anyone who is performing a service for money should likely not be the agent in control of paying that money.
How a Lawyer from Five Points Law Group Can Help
If you have recently discovered that a healthcare worker is getting “too close” to your aging relative and you suspect they may be trying to gain access to assets and finances, you should talk to an attorney. Find out if your loved one has the necessary documents in place and learn whether the relative is capable of revoking them. You may need to get a court-supervised process, like guardianship or conservatorship, established to protect your loved one. Whatever the best course of action, we may be able to help. So give our firm a call today to learn more.